Internal market for products
Regulatory Policy: Safety and free movement of industrial products within the EU
You can buy and sell products freely within the European Union without specific requirements, taxes or other obstacles. The vast majority of products on the EU market are subject to common European rules which set high standards of safety for consumers and protection of the environment.
Controls on the movement of goods within the internal market were abolished in January 1993 and the European Union is now a single territory without internal frontiers. The categories of goods concerned include agricultural and food products, as well as industrial products.
Industrial products, in other words non-food manufactured products, are subject to a series of EU laws. The purpose of this legislation is typically to provide harmonised rules across the EU for the protection of consumers, public health, the environment or other public interests. Harmonised rules preclude the adoption of possibly divergent national rules by Member Stares on those issues and thus ensure the free circulation of the products within the EU's internal market.
In the majority of sectors (e.g. electronic and electric equipment, machinery, lifts, medical devices), the legislation is restricted to the (essential) requirements necessary to protect the public interests in question (health and safety and the environment etc). To demonstrate compliance with these requirements, manufacturers may voluntarily make use of standards or other technical specifications. The use of European standards by the manufacturer has the advantage that it raises a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements. But the manufacturer is free to demonstrate compliance with those essential requirements by other means.
In other sectors (e.g. automotive industry, chemicals), the legislation specifies detailed legislative requirements obliging certain product types to have the same technical specifications.
In general, the legislative architecture of the internal market for industrial products is established on the following building blocks:
Safety (or environmental protection, or other public interest protection) requirements
Voluntary or compulsory technical specifications to which products should conform. Standards are voluntary technical specifications.
Specific procedures to follow in order to demonstrate that the technical specifications satisfy the essential requirements (for example that a product is safe). This process is known as conformity assessment.
3rd parties (so-called conformity assessment bodies) which are involved in conformity assessment procedures for complex products and certify that the technical specifications meet the safety requirements.
Other organisations which in turn certify that conformity assessment bodies are properly qualified to perform their activities. This process is known as accreditation.
Market surveillance activities performed by the Member States.
Controls of products coming from outside the EU performed by the customs authorities in the Member States.
For most, but not all products, manufacturers must label the product with a CE marking by which they declare on their sole responsibility that the products comply with all the Union legislative requirements applicable to the product. CE marking applies to products ranging from electrical equipment to toys and from civil explosives to medical devices.